Aug 13, 2020

Charity Lives On: Unprecedented summer support for the Bulldog Pantry

Matt Weir / Collegian File Photo

Despite personal financial hardships and a crippled economy where good causes would seem to suffer, the Bulldog Pantry defies its circumstances and has not only sustained its backing over the summer, but has dramatically grown.

The EOP Summer Bridge, a three-week program allowing incoming freshman to experience Fresno State before the fall semester, collected a record amount of food items in their annual food drive for the Bulldog Pantry.

“They brought in over 13,00 items. We were in shock by that,” said Jessica Medina, a graduate student and Projects Assistant for Fresno State and Dog Days. She’s also a volunteer and an original founder of the pantry.

In 2008, Summer Bridge brought in 3,868 items. In 2009, the items increased to more than 8,000, she said.
“And each year they had less people and less time to collect,” said Medina.

Esmit Gamboa, a student involved in the Bulldog Pantry for two years, said that it’s almost like the Summer Bridge students treat the event like a contest to see if they can improve upon their record from last year.

“Students just get so motivated about it,” said Gamboa. “I like that!”

On June 10, the Bulldog Pantry conducted a fundraiser called Hike For Hunger involving participants climbing Half Dome at Yosemite National Park. All proceeds, and the required $50 donation from each person, went directly to the pantry.

According to Flores, there were about 50 participants in the event.

“The fundraiser was an idea that came from students,” said Dominique Flores, a fourth year American Humanics student majoring in Community Benefit & Youth Services Administration. She has volunteered with the pantry since January 2008.

A total of $3,000 was raised during the fundraiser, said Medina, and another $3,000 worth for food from a local Fresno business.

During her time with the charity, Flores has seen the amount of volunteers go up and in turn more growth of the pantry itself.

Medina explained their plans for the future. Although they have used the non-profit status of the Lutheran Campus Ministry to continue to buy food at a very low price, their success over the years may alter the way they function.

“We’re in the process of becoming our own non-profit as well”, said Medina. “Now that we know we’ve been successful for a couple of years, we can start working on possibly moving in another direction.”

Students help with collecting food, bagging the items for families and students and distributing it on Saturdays.

The pantry does not require people to prove if they are students to receive food. This is why volunteers don’t usually know how many people are students and how many are families. But Flores explained that some students call in to have food held for them to pick up later in the week.

“A lot of times, they might not necessarily want to come on Saturdays because they might be embarrassed.”

Through her involvement and the reactions she gets from the people who come, makes it all worth the effort in the end, she said.

“The thing that pulls at your heartstrings is how appreciative people are. I really liked it, so I kept going.”

Medina has been involved in the pantry since it’s origins.

“I’ve volunteered since we got started in October 2007,” she said. “I was a student at the time and we met as a group to discuss the idea of opening the pantry and before I knew it, we opened in November and I’ve been with the pantry ever since.”

The Lutheran Campus Ministry has also been providing their building since the formation of the pantry.

Don Romsa, Lutheran Campus Pastor and supporter of the pantry, said that the help the program offers is a staple for many people who depend on it to get by.

“We know food is a temporary fix, a Band-Aid. But it’s a necessary Band-Aid.”

Although the pantry is not open as in the summer, only once a month instead of weekly, Medina says it’s a reality they’ve had to accept.

“We don’t have as many students on campus so there’s not as much help. That allows us to have some time to get some more food in, get some more funds, and look at different ways of how the Pantry functions and move forward with that.”

The Bulldog Pantry will be open again for the fall semester every Saturday starting September 4.

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